August is MedicAlert Awareness Month
8/21/2023 by Tamim Rajjo, M.D., M.P.H.
Do no harm. This first principle in medical practice is self-evident during everyday interactions between patients and their medical care team. But in the midst of a medical emergency, a lack of details of a person's medical history might be crucial — and even detrimental — to their recovery if not communicated at the time. Medical Alert Systems are designed to help during these critical situations.
What are Medical Alert Systems?
Medical Alert Systems include IDs and devices.
- A MedicAlert ID is a piece of jewelry, like a bracelet or necklace, engraved with important information to alert emergency first responders of any life-threatening medical conditions a person might have.
- A MedicAlert Device is a small device that, upon activation, helps notify family members, friends, neighbors and emergency medical responders in the event of an emergency.
Why use a Medical Alert System?
MedicAlert IDs help provide a quick recognition of any medical condition the person might have, such as heart disease, epilepsy, diabetes, certain allergies and use of insulin or blood thinners. They may also provide information on treatments the person has agreed (or not agreed) to receive and prevent treatment errors. Examples include patient's wishes on blood transfusions and Do Not Resuscitate orders.
MedicAlert Devices can be lifesaving if the person is in an accident or is alone and has a medical emergency. Activating the device, usually with the push of a button, will immediately alert the designated personnel to dispatch to the person's location — along with key information such as medical conditions, allergies and medications.
Who needs to use the Medical Alert Systems?
Anyone with a medical condition that may involve a medical emergency (e.g., patients with diabetes, heart disease, seizures) is encouraged to wear a medical alert system. People with certain severe allergies should consider wearing a MedicAlert ID that lists those allergies. MedicAlert Devices are especially helpful for older adults or seniors who live alone should they suffer a fall at home or even simply need help. The MedicAlert Devices can also be used as a panic button.
If you or a loved one might benefit from wearing a MedicAlert, please discuss the option with your medical care team. Do not wait until you suffer an injury or illness before considering wearing one.
More advanced Medical Alert Systems are now available and include fall detection and GPS, among other features.
Although proven to be lifesaving devices, Medical Alert systems may not be covered by medical insurance. There are exceptions, however, so patients should contact their insurance company to confirm.
MedicAlert IDs and Devices are lifesaving, relatively cheap, easy to use, and provide ease of mind. Seniors may especially benefit from a medical alert device to help them maintain their independence while connecting them with the help they need upon any emergency.
Tamim Rajjo M.D., is a family physician and a preventive medicine specialist. He has a particular interest in the management of obesity in the primary care setting. He holds a Master's degree in Public Health and serves as the medical director of Mayo Family Clinic Northeast in Rochester.